The Indian Question

Unsurprisingly two decades of purified capitalism administered by the African National Congress – with the help of the IMF and World Bank -have done little for South Africa’s poor and dispossessed. Putting it charitably the party was outwitted into giving away control of the economy and enticed into abandoning its faith in socialism. What next?

Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters are a handy distraction. On two occasions in June, Malema claimed the majority of Indians are racist and have not faced the same level of oppression as Africans and ‘coloureds’. He said those who challenged him on this score were self-evidently racists .Chair of the EFF and former head of the SABC, Dali Mpofu was given some 18 minutes on the SABC to defend Malema.

According to the 2011 census Indians make up just over 2 percent of the population. Whites (8.9 percent), Coloureds (8.9 percent) and Africans (almost 80 percent) account for the rest.

In 1972 Indian students were the vanguard of the black consciousness boycott of racially segregated universities. The boycott was followed by a wave of strikes in Durban in early 1973. A decade of silence after the imprisonment of the MK High Command and the banning of the liberation movements was broken. This renewal of public protest,’the Durban Moment’ was avenged by the banning and imprisonment of black consciousness activists.

John Kane-Berman (The Method in the Madness:1978) described black consciousness as an indigenous movement with three fundamental components. The first is psychological liberation; the rejection of the imposed notion of inherent inferiority and its replacement with a positive awareness of black culture, history and achievement. The second is to break the dependency on patronising white liberals, to build black organisations and spurn apartheid created institutions like Bantustans and the South African Indian Council.

Thirdly, black consciousness seeks to unite all the black people in South Africa, including Indians and Coloured people. The term ‘black’ thus encompasses Coloured people and Indians as well as Africans since they too are victims of social, political and economic discrimination…The transition from passive acceptance of an inferior status believed to be deserved to active protest against oppressive external factors is an enormous one. It is here that black consciousness had an importance and impact which the bannings are unlikely to undo.

Here is a note about ‘The Population Registration Act No 30 of 1950’ from the ‘The O’Malley Archive’.

This Act “provided for the compilation of a register of the entire South African population” (Dyzenhaus 1991: 40). The South African population now became divided into three racial groups: ‘White’, ‘Black’ (‘African’, ‘Native’ and/or ‘Bantu’) and ‘Coloured’; the last of which was further subcategorized into ‘Cape Malay’, ‘Griqua’, ‘Indian’, ‘Chinese’ and ‘Cape Coloured’ (Christopher 1994: 103ft). Classification was determined according to physical appearance and social acceptability (incl. linguistic skills). “Anyone who contested their classification could appeal in the first instance to a special board set up for that purpose and headed by a judge or magistrate, present or former, and then to the law courts” (Riley 1991: 20).This Act was formally repealed in 1991.

Deborah Posel’s 2001 essay, “Whats in a name” captures the magnitude of the race classification project devised to secure rigorous control of the ‘non-white’ population and reassure anxious whites they were not endangered by the spectre of ‘die swart gevaar (the black danger) threatening to overwhelm their cities. Under the Population Registration Act every South African citizen would now be issued with a single authorised classification.Whether a person was declared a member of one of the black or coloured categories made a significant difference. Black Africans were subject to more repressive legislation, not least the notorious ‘pass’ laws.

All citizens, including whites, were required to furnish information about themselves and their families by way of the national census. A photograph was attached to each completed census form sent to the Director of Census for the purposes of making a racial classification. But, in practice, it was the racial verdict of the census enumerator accompanying the census form, which typically sealed the person’s race. Millions of South Africans were racially classified by this means; but it did not complete the process. In 1953, the Director of Census delegated his powers of racial classification to all officials of the Department of Native Affairs (and then again in 1969 to all public servants). Teams of classifiers were then sent out to workplaces, stations and residential areas across the country to continue the task.

Classification was an apartheid art.

Each classifier was at liberty to specify their pet criteria for race… Some officials read racial differences into the texture of a person’s hair, the notorious pencil test being used to determine the boundary between ‘white’ and ‘non-white’… For others, it was a matter of the pallor of a person’s skin – ‘a shiny face being the emblem of continuity of race’, or the feel of an ear lobe (‘softer in natives than Coloureds), or the appearance of the cheekbones (high cheekbones being seen as the sign of a Coloured). One official insisted that he could ‘tell a Coloured with absolute certainty by the way he spits’. ..At other times, various ‘stigmata’ of race were invoked, as in the use of ‘the eyelid test’ or ‘the nail test’ , or in the examination of genitalia (the degree of pigmentation of the penis or scrotum in the case of men and the pubic mound in the case of women). All in all, almost any aspect of a person’s size or shape was potentially a signifier of race, in unpredictable and idiosyncratic ways. All these seemingly narrowly biological readings of racial appearance were shot through with judgements about ‘social standing’ and ‘way of life’ – as was authorised by the terms of the Population Registration Act.

Apartheid’s racial reasoning begins with the notion that racial difference is a self-evident fact, throws biology, class and culture into the mix and  concludes that race is ubiquitous, essential and the determinant of all experience. Unsurprisingly race becomes the site of white fear. But apartheid’s reasoning also contaminated the way blacks thought about themselves.

The Population Registration Act produced techniques of thoroughgoing racialisation. Constructs of race which imagined its imprints in an elastic matrix of biological and social factors, were insinuated ubiquitously into the everyday lives of apartheid subjects, in ways that were enabled and reinforced by the materialities of apartheid’ s social geography and economic structure. Large chunks of this order remain in place, with the large majority of the black population still impoverished, economically excluded and consigned to geographically separate and under-resourced residential areas. The majority of whites too are still confined within apartheid borders of thought and experience. To this extent bioculturalist conceptions of race may retain their purchase in ways that continue to reinforce apartheid modes of racial reasoning, in the lived experience of thoroughgoing difference and separateness.

Posel ends with a question all the more provocative for having been posed 17 years ago.

Pertinent to this paper is the fact that there are now legal requirements, as well as social and political pressures, to restate old racial categories. This produces questions which thus far seem to have remained in the shadows of political debates about change. How, in a post-apartheid era, do we determine who is ‘African’, ‘Coloured’, ‘white’ and ‘Indian’? What are the criteria for racial classifications? With whom is the authority of categorising race vested? On what basis will claims to knowledge about race be issued and defended? What are the processes of racial recognition that accompany the new uses of old racial categories? And what are the consequences of these exercises for the pursuit of non-racialism?

To communicate – one to one – this nuanced understanding of the psychological and sociological impact of ‘the system’, to explain in the face of state propaganda and the security apparatus how easily apartheid provoked suspicion and resentment was the everyday task of the resistance then. What now, in a free country?  Here’s a case study.

Francis Herd of the SABC interviewed Dali Mpofu, chair of the EFF, about ‘The Indian Question’. The interview is worth deconstructing. Whether it should have been broadcast at all is another matter.

Herd begins by playing in a clip in which Julius Malema says:

“The majority of Indians hate Africans. The majority of Indians are racist. And we must never be scared to say they are racist. I’m not saying all Indians. I’m saying the majority of them.”

Herd then asks: Is it necessary to inflame divisions given our history?

Mpofu agrees that it is not necessary to inflame divisions. He is merely pointing out the inequalities created by apartheid. What he is saying is that there is a problem to be addressed.

Quite obviously the sum of apartheid’s inequalities do not amount to Indians hating Africans.Why would this be the priority of a self-proclaimed revolutionary party over unemployment, housing, education, health, sanitation and so much more?

Mpofu continues:”What you are saying would be as absurd as saying if someone says there are differences between men and women then you say they are inflaming gender divisions.”.

Herd says Mpofu is not pointing out a difference, he is stereotyping Indians as people who hate Africans.

Mpofu’s response is that he is not stereotyping Indians at all. He is stating a fact.

“Learned people ask us where’s the evidence and we say that is a stupid question. All they have to do is just phone the IEC and see the voting statistics in any Indian community in South Africa. They will realise that those communities support racist parties.

This is not true. The IEC does not and cannot provide such statistics.

Herd fails to challenge him on this. But she goes to the heart of the matter and asks whether the proof that Indians hate Africans is that they vote for the Democratic Alliance. “Will that really stand up in court, is that really the argument.”

Mpofu agrees that this is his argument. “The DA stands for the preservation of inequalities, the preservation of racism, the preservation of all the privileges that were acquired through killing our people….White people for example, 90 percent or 100 percent vote for the DA”

Herd puts it to Mpofu that he now saying that people vote for the DA because they hate Africans.

Mpofu’s response is that people choose the DA because the party seeks to maintain the status quo, the situation in which African people are on the bottom rung because of 360 years of colonialism. Basically anybody who votes for the DA is a racist.

Clearly the status quo is an ANC government in thrall to capitalism and unconcerned about the plight of the remarkable majority of people who still have faith in the party. The DA is in no position to change or preserve the status quo. Still if the DA is the fountainhead of racism why has this become an Indian Question?  

Herd: “So the EFF is maintaining that the majority of Indian people hate Africans and the proof you’re providing is that they vote for the DA.”

Mpofu’s response is to explain to Herd that a majority is 51 percent. Therefore the EFF is claiming only 51 percent of Indians are racist whereas a former Constitutional Court judge, Zac Yacoob said 90 percent of Indians are racist.

This child-smart reasoning is  a constant feature of  Mpofu’s arguments  although he is a top lawyer. Zac Yacoob has challenged Julius Malema to a public debate on the issue although this was probably unknown at the time.

Herd suggests that Zac Yacoob’s remarks can’t really be used as proof of what people think; it’s not provable.

Mpofu says Herd may not think it is provable because she may not have been a victim of race hate. But if you are a victim you know exactly what racism is.

But of course even a victim of racism cannot tell what people may be thinking without some form of evidence. Throughout the interview Mpofu relies on his  self-proclaimed victim status.

Herd asks why a victim of racial hate would want to encourage racial hate.

Mpofu’s response is that you have to take a bitter pill to cure a wound. He says that the constitution was produced to eliminate a number of inequalities. So you can speak about gender and other forms of discrimination. But talking about Indian racism is taboo.

This is strange. Here’s the former head of the SABC spewing bile at length and complaining he’s been silenced by the constitution.

Mpofu then says that under apartheid more money was spent on an Indian child than an African child and to address these inequalities you have to talk about them.

This is utterly astonishing. A black government has had 24 years not only to talk about it but to ensure that none of South Africa’s children have to repeat the experience of an impoverished childhood and threadbare schooling. 

Herd: So you’re saying its justified to attack Indians because they were the beneficiaries of apartheid through no fault of their own?

Mpofu says it is absurd to accuse him of racism when he is the victim.

This is clearly an evasion but unfortunately Herd does not press him on it. Mpofu was a member of the ANC when the party settled with apartheid. She does not ask why Mpofu is targeting Indian as opposed to other ‘beneficiaries’ now. 

Herd: You’re lumping all Indians together, you’re making judgments on the colour of their skin.

Mpofu does not dispute Herd’s assertion. Instead he says she should be attacking Zac Yacoob .

“Why are you not accusing him of attacking Indians. The fact that you attack someone who says 51 percent, but the one who says 90 percent is not attacked is itself racist. Because you are discriminating between the other one because he is of Indian extraction. You see that’s how sick the society is.”

In short there is nothing wrong about claiming the majority of Indians are racists and he is only being put on the spot because he is African.

Herd: You must admit that emphasising race over and over again can deepen divisions…why can’t you let South Africans say, “no I am not going to be defined by the past”.

Mpofu: “No that’s the biggest problem you are making. You think racism is in the past. Racism is here. Between you and me, as we are sitting here, someone is looking at a black man and a white woman. So racism is alive.

It’s a pity that Herd does not ask Mpofu to explain this.

Mpofu goes on: “This thing about Rainbowism is the biggest load of nonsense you’ve ever heard in your life. In any event you can’t say you want a rainbow nation in which you don’t see colour because the rainbow itself has got colours.”

Herd does not ask how this relates to his claim that Indians hate Africans.

Instead, alluding to the demonization of Jews in Germany and the consequences, she asks why the EFF chooses to emphasise that Indians hate Africans, over and over again.

Mpofu: “We are the truth people, my sister.”

Herd: Are there no dangerous consequences?

Mpofu: “The Bible says the truth shall set you free…If we are going to egg walk around the problem we will never resolve racism in this country for your children and your grandchildren.”

In short the EFF’s attack on Indians is necessary to save whites from suffering racism in perpetuity. Inflaming racial tensions is Biblically justified.

Herd: You called it the Indian Question. Does it not harken back to the Native Question, the Jewish Question.

Mpofu: “No, in the ANC it’s called the National Question…The main objective of the ANC is to liberate blacks in general and Africans in particular. And that whole thing is called the National Question.

And so, according to the chair of the EFF, the liberation of blacks, which includes Indians , coloureds and Africans, is peculiarly dependent on advancing the claim that Indians, a sliver of the population, hate Africans. Perversely, The National Question of how to address capitalist exploitation, racial injustice, colonialism and imperialism has become the Indian Question for the EFF . Clearly there must be a motive for such obvious whitewash.

Herd: I’m not querying why you’re raising Africanness.  I’m querying why you are undermining Indians.

Mpofu blames the media. He says EFF deputy president Floyd Shivambu objected to the treasury’s deputy director general Ismail Momoniat – who is Indian -briefing a parliamentary committee because it undermined African leadership. “But you in the media decided that had something to do with Indianness.”

The transcript shows clearly that Momoniat’s racial identity was the central issue.

Herd: He would not have said that to another African person.

Mpofu says that Shivambu’s actions were analogous to someone resisting gender discrimination.

Herd points out that Momoniat was acting on the instructions of Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene‎, who is African.  “What are you saying about his ability to lead?

Mpofu provides another analogy. He says those Africans overshadowed by Momoniat may have reacted like battered women in denial. “The victim is not the sole determinant of whether or not they are being undermined.”

Herd: Perhaps Momoniat is the guy Nene trusts to represent him in parliament.

Mpofu: “Its the same thing. It’s like saying a women who is being battered…”

Herd: “Are you not undermining black leadership then?”

Mpofu: “That’s exactly the point I’m making. If we say let’s take you away from this abusive husband and she says no I want to remain, then you say, no, no you’re undermining her by rescuing her from abuse. What is that?”

Dali Mpofu is a celebrity lawyer and a member of South Africa’s black elite.  He virtue-signals copiously but provides little support for an especially inflammatory claim that scapegoats the country’s smallest minority for the failures of the government. It lends credence to the notion that the EFF is not really a Marxist-Leninist party but an aggrieved faction of South Africa’s neoliberal coterie and a threat to the development of a more assertive labour movement.


War 111

Full spectrum dominance is dead. On March 1, addressing the Federal Assembly in Moscow, President Vladimir Putin announced Russia had achieved overwhelming military superiority over America. He said the US had wasted trillions of dollars of taxpayers money on defence systems that were useless against a new generation of Russian missiles. The US leadership had irresponsibly rejected overtures to reopen arms limitation talks and it was time to remove the war-mongers.

We did our best to dissuade the Americans from withdrawing from the (Anti Ballistic Missile) treaty. All in vain. The US pulled out of the treaty in 2002. Even after that we tried to develop constructive dialogue with the Americans. We proposed working together in this area to ease concerns and maintain the atmosphere of trust. At one point, I thought that a compromise was possible, but this was not to be. All our proposals, absolutely all of them, were rejected. And then we said that we would have to improve our modern strike systems to protect our security. In reply, the US said that it is not creating a global BMD system against Russia, which is free to do as it pleases, and that the US will presume that our actions are not spearheaded against the US…To those who in the past 15 years have tried to accelerate an arms race and seek unilateral advantage against Russia, have introduced restrictions and sanctions that are illegal from the standpoint of international law aiming to restrain our nation’s development, including in the military area, I will say this: everything you have tried to prevent through such a policy has already happened. No one has managed to restrain Russia. Now we have to be aware of this reality and be sure that everything I have said today is not a bluff ‒ and it is not a bluff, believe me ‒ and to give it a thought and dismiss those who live in the past and are unable to look into the future, to stop rocking the boat we are all in and which is called the Earth.

In a piece for Consortium News, Gilbert Doctorow describes the US reaction to Putin’s declaration.

He scored a direct hit in the Pentagon, where senior generals were left dumbfounded. But, as is normally the case, when these gentlemen need time to collect their wits, we heard first only denial: that the Russians were bluffing, that they really have nothing ready, that these are only projects, and that the U.S. already has all of the same, but is holding it back in reserve.

Then on March 8 a group of senators, including vehement anti-Putinists, Dianne Feinstein and Bernie Sanders, wrote an open letter to then Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson urging him to open arms control talks with the Russians ASAP.

This was a story that died before publication everywhere except in Russia, where it had been a featured news item within hours of the letter’s release. The American and world public knew nothing about it, although the letter was there for the reading on the home pages of the Senate websites of the respective co-authors. The American and world public know nothing about that letter today, nearly two weeks after its release, apart from readers of Consortium who were properly informed at the time. In the meantime, the U.S. propaganda machine moved into high gear, producing diversionary issues to draw the attention of the U.S. public away from what had been the subject of Putin’s speech of March 1. And so we have been getting saturation news coverage of the “Skripal nerve gas attack,” of the alleged cyber attack on the US energy grid and water systems. Both are pure “Russians did it” stories. And we read about the repositioning of U.S. naval forces in the Mediterranean to within cruise-missile range of Damascus for a possible punitive blow in response to a chemical attack on civilians by Assad’s regime that still has not happened, all with intent to humiliate Assad’s backers, the Russians.

I began this piece some weeks ago, largely to support the absolute sensibility of a socialist – and communist- alternative to capitalism proposed by Irvin Jim, general secretary of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA). His comments followed a swell presidential purge in the Rainbow Nation. The new incumbent sports an off-the-peg halo while the neoliberal coterie jostles for space at the feeding trough. The ruling African National Congress, rebranded as the party of revival and redemption, declares war on corruption. The  commentariat has another blindfold to embroider for the masses.

Here’s Daily Maverick columnist, J. Brooks Spector:

And now, of course, the country’s incoming president, Cyril Ramaphosa, must take on the task of healing a battered national reputation and its tarnished international standing…He will have to argue that the nation must somehow come together across divides that so many organisations and bodies have been stoking and feeding. And, crucially, that those who still have very little must put aside their real grievances in the face of yet a new national need for patience, forbearance and tolerance, where there has been very little of these values on display in recent times. And he will have to do this in a world where there are so many other places for investors to weigh carefully in their plans.”

More than a century ago in his essay The Soul of Man Under Socialism  Oscar Wilde said:

Disobedience, in the eyes of anyone who has read history, is man’s original virtue. It is through disobedience that progress has been made, through disobedience and through rebellion. Sometimes the poor are praised for being thrifty. But to recommend thrift to the poor is both grotesque and insulting. It is like advising a man who is starving to eat less… I can quite understand a man accepting laws that protect private property, and admit of its accumulation, as long as he himself is able under those conditions to realise some form of beautiful and intellectual life. But it is almost incredible to me how a man whose life is marred and made hideous by such laws can possibly acquiesce in their continuance.

No surprise then that patience, forbearance and tolerance don’t wash at NUMSA, the country’s biggest trade union and an affiliate of the militant South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU).  Irvin Jim says workers have no reason to celebrate changes in the ANC’s leadership.

For the last two decades, the ANC government has waged an all-out assault on the African working class in order to defend White Monopoly Capital…These policies have resulted in massive job losses and long-term mass unemployment. They have created a society of extreme inequality. The majority suffer as they did under Apartheid, living crammed together with cockroaches and rats in townships and shacks, without sanitation, water and electricity. NUMSA shares SAFTU’s view that “Cyril Ramaphosa is a deeply compromised capitalist billionaire, with hands stained with the blood of the 34 victims of Marikana who were shot in cold blood by the state to shield White Monopoly capital in general and Lonmin in particular”. Furthermore, it is naïve to believe that the cronyism and corruption which is a hallmark of the ANC will disappear. The very same people who stood by quietly whilst the state was actively looted by various factions of capital including the Gupta and the Rupert families are the ones who make up the top leadership structures of the ANC, and this includes Ramaphosa himself. They cannot extricate themselves from the corrupt tendencies of the party. Furthermore the ANC has been enabled in its corruption by the leadership of the South African Communist Party (SACP) and trade union federation COSATU who actively continue to mislead members of the working class into supporting their worst butchers, for their own selfish narrow political agenda.

The left’s post-apartheid embrace of neoliberalism is repulsive – and bitterly ironic as the ideology crumbles. The claim that capitalism is the most efficient system for  allocating resources, satisfying social needs, realising human potential and guaranteeing freedom and democracy has been trashed by global reality; spectacular inequality, ecological devastation, mass poverty, unemployment, dispossession, forced migration, destitution, disease and lawlessness.

In Britain the opposition Labour Party held a special conference to consider strategies for nationalising key sectors like health and education and the water, energy and transport utilities – if it wins the next election. The plan is to restore properly-funded and resourced public services and reverse past privatisations. That could include the free provision of health and social care, education, transport and communications.

Michael Roberts says this is inspiring but will not break the stranglehold of capitalism.

If public ownership is confined to just the so-called natural monopolies or utilities and is not extended to the banks and financial sector and key strategic industries (the ‘commanding heights’ of the economy) capitalism will continue to predominate in investment and employment …and markets will still rule…There was no talk of taking over these sectors at the conference.  That was not even talk of taking over the big five banks… Without control of finance and the strategic sectors of the British economy, a Labour government will either be frustrated in its attempts to improve the lot of “the many not the few” (Labour’s slogan), or worse, face the impact of another global recession without any protection from the vicissitudes of the market.

The strategy is flawed but it’s worth noting such proposals were off-limits in the Labour Party just a couple of years ago –  before a management miscalculation gave members a chance to elect Jeremy Corbyn as leader.

American’s have learned little from their history says Richard D. Wolff.

Not only the Republican Party, but also the Democratic Party support, serve and reinforce the capitalism that stands as a basic obstacle to economic equality and democracy. Because those goals are never achieved they have long served as objectives to which both Parties offer lip service. The absurd contradiction of their shared position is now giving way to the recognition that the necessity for system change is the lesson of US history. If, in place of capitalist enterprise structures, a transition occurred to worker cooperatives with democratic organizations and procedures it would have removed a key obstacle to a broader social movement toward equality and democracy… it is capitalism that must be overcome to solve its inherent inequality problem.

Irvin Jim’s call for the overthrow of capitalism, the implementation of socialism and the establishment of communism as the ultimate goal is perfectly reasonable. Control of the means of production allows capitalists to exploit people; extracting a profit by underpaying workers who produce the wealth of society. But the competition is brutal and unceasing. The result is a remarkable concentration of wealth, power and influence in a core network of global corporations. Those enterprises unable to hold their ground are absorbed by their rivals or ejected from the market. Survivors must continue to accumulate or face the same fate. That means bringing ever more goods to market until the inevitable crises of overproduction invites creative destruction.

There is a crime here that goes beyond denunciation. There is a sorrow here that weeping cannot symbolize. There is a failure here that topples all our success. The fertile earth, the straight tree rows, the sturdy trunks, and the ripe fruit. And children dying of pellagra must die because a profit cannot be taken from an orange. And coroners must fill in the certificate- died of malnutrition- because the food must rot, must be forced to rot. The people come with nets to fish for potatoes in the river, and the guards hold them back; they come in rattling cars to get the dumped oranges, but the kerosene is sprayed. And they stand still and watch the potatoes float by, listen to the screaming pigs being killed in a ditch and covered with quick-lime, watch the mountains of oranges slop down to a putrefying ooze; and in the eyes of the people there is the failure; and in the eyes of the hungry there is a growing wrath. In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage.”

The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck’s indictment of American capitalism and the social costs of its inherent crises was published in 1939.  But memories of the Great Depression were swiftly buried in a post war boom that would last until the mid 1970’s. Crucially, capitalism’s ‘Golden Age’ – ushering the rise of the affluent society in the West – was an era of substantial reform subordinating the market to public planning. A swift return to free-wheeling capitalism – the essential and inexorable cause of the war in which some 70 million people had been killed – was inconceivable.

Technical innovation, cheap oil, capital intensive industry, pharmaceuticals, immigration, reconstruction aid and the continued looting of Third World resources contributed to the unprecedented surge in global economic growth achieved by the mixed economy. South Africa’s black miners played a vital role says Sam Williams.

One major factor working in the direction of prolonging the boom was the bestial system of South African apartheid. Apartheid rule made normal trade union activity for the African gold miners in South Africa—then by far the world’s leading gold producer—impossible. .. As a a result, it took a relatively long time before rising prices finally reduced the rate of profit sufficiently in the gold mining industry to begin to reduce total global gold production.  Just like African slavery had played a crucial role in the “rosy dawn”—to use Marx’s ironic words—of capitalist production, the slave-like system of apartheid helped prolong the life of the vampire-like capitalist system during the “cold war” struggle against the Soviet Union and its allies. While the postwar boom and the Keynesian policies that accompanied it were doomed to collapse in the long run, the success of capitalism in maintaining capitalist prosperity for the two decades after the war played a crucial role in undermining the class consciousness of the European workers—in Western Europe, in Eastern Europe and finally in the Soviet Union itself, as well as preventing the growth of class consciousness in the United States. We must never forget the role that South African apartheid played in this success, whose disastrous consequences we are forced to struggle against today.

The reason for this exceptional phase of capitalist expansion was a  high rate of profit – stimulated by the destruction of accumulated capital during the war and massive levels of US military expenditure – which kept capitalists investing. The real lesson of the slump that followed was the impossibility of reforming a protection racket masquerading as ‘the economy’. To restore profitability a theology of purified markets was conjured as scripture for a crusade to crush labour and asset-strip the state.  Jason Hirthler writes:

The neoliberal economic model of deregulation, downsizing, and privatization was preached by the Reagan-Thatcher junta, liberalized by the Clinton regime, temporarily given a bad name by the unhinged Bush administration, and saved by telegenic restoration of the Obama years. The ideology that underlay the model saturated academia, notably at the University of Chicago, and the mainstream media, principally at The New York Times. Since then it has trickled down to the general populace, to whom it now feels second nature. Today think tanks like the Heritage Foundation, the Brookings Institute, Stratfor, Cato Institute, American Enterprise Institute, Council on Foreign Relations, Carnegie Endowment, the Open Society Foundation, and the Atlantic Council, among many others, funnel millions of dollars in donations into cementing neoliberal attitudes in the American mind.

 Here’s OffGuardian’s take on the situation in Britain.

There is now almost no point of contact between the world described in daily mainstream news and social commentary and the actual veridical experiential world in which real people really live. The most basic “facts” upon which they operate are almost completely false. They produce hours and hours of comment and analysis based on events that never occurred, words that were never said, a history that doesn’t exist. It’s not about explaining reality any more, it’s about making it up.

False-flags, psy-ops, phoney reports, doctored footage, compromised experts, complicit academics, stage-managed public inquiries, manufactured intelligence, financial gibberish, humanitarian warmongering and political spin are used by the State – both formal and deep -to water-board citizens into confusion and consensus. Events that graphically illustrate the predatory nature of the system become invisible. And so the pillaging of Greece in plain sight and the brutality of the European Union are never mentioned in the tedious and barren debate about Brexit. The fraudulent assumption of comparative advantage goes unchallenged. Like the disease that curiously defies science to become ever more profitable, capitalism disarms its host.

Almost twenty years ago, in his book The Cancer Stage of Capitalism, Professor John McMurtry argued that capitalism unchecked must ultimately kill the planet.

The air, soil and water cumulatively degrade; the climates and oceans destabilize; species become extinct at a spasm rate across continents; pollution cycles and volumes increase to endanger life-systems at all levels in cascade effects; a rising half of the world is destitute as inequality multiplies; the global food system produces more and more disabling and contaminated junk food without nutritional value; non-contagious diseases multiply to the world’s biggest killer with only symptom cures; the vocational future of the next generation collapses across the world while their bank debts rise; the global financial system has ceased to function for productive investment in life-goods; collective-interest agencies of governments and unions are stripped while for-profit state subsidies multiply; police state laws and methods advance while belligerent wars for corporate resources increase; the media are corporate ad vehicles and the academy is increasingly reduced to corporate functions; public sectors and services are non-stop defunded and privatized as tax evasion and transnational corporate funding and service by governments rise at the same time at every level.

McMurtry says the cancer stage of capitalism is not a metaphor but the diagnosis of a world-system disorder which becomes cumulatively worse the longer it is unrecognised. A measure of the malignancy is that even ‘progressive media’ will not countenance, let alone investigate, the sins of capitalism that extend beyond the workplace. For instance academics David MacGregor and Paul Zarembka note that key left publications and icons like Noam Chomsky embrace the official narrative of 9/11 although it is patently false.

Hostility on the left to research findings regarding 9–11 critically weakens the antiwar movement. US capitalism has removed a page of world history from much of left consciousness, replacing it with a contrived White House document. Lame “blow-back” explanations of 9–11 that much of the left favors (i.e., the US got its just deserts, courtesy of Osama bin Laden) offer shaky support for so-called “Islamic terrorism” while suspending critical judgment on the Official Story. With no worthwhile analysis, much of the left moralizes about the character of war in Afghanistan or Iraq, as in “well maybe the Afghan mission is a just war,” or “Saddam did not have weapons of mass destruction, after all.” That the decision to go to war in Afghanistan and Iraq was facilitated by the 9–11 attacks is obvious. But if 9–11 is in fact an instance of Machiavellian state terror, or what Marx called “bourgeois terror” , then any US pretence that these wars have to do with self-defense is totally unsustainable. This understanding would strengthen, rather than weaken, the position of left opposition to these wars.

The reluctance of the ‘left’ to confront the  capitalist underworld of the ‘deep state’ leaves society defenceless against a clear and present danger; the terror unleashed by the state and its criminal associates. Zarembka and MacGregor contrast this with Marx’s ability to penetrate the conspiracy that prepared Louis Bonaparte’s coup of 1851.

For Marx, as we have seen, the secret of bourgeois rule is the state of emergency. Its democratic facade can only temporarily hide capitalism’s vicious machine of class exploitation. Sooner or later the mask is dropped: prisons, torture chambers, muskets and sabers revealed again. But deadly secrecy and bloody conspiracy are required to effect the transformation, to quiet dissent, and to ensure, among other things, that “the press [is] systematically isolated from the barracks and the barracks from civil society”

Masses of perceptive comment are ignored unsurprisingly by the main stream media whose task is to facilitate imperialism abroad and exploitation at home. Despite all the contrary evidence the US intervention in Syria remains a ‘civil-war’ initiated by a tyrant. The US, UK and France were able to launch missiles at Damascus earlier this month on the basis of a completely fabricated claim that chemical weapons had been used against civilians. But as Thierry Meyssan observes this was not a demonstration of impunity but an acknowledgment that the military tide has turned decisively against the US and its allies.

Of course, the Allies limited themselves. They carefully avoided hitting Russian or Iranian targets, and these two states did not participate in the operation. Nonetheless, the Western armada no longer has the capacity to impose its will on middle powers as long as they are protected by Russia. Everyone has understood that, as from now : the United States and Russia – just as in earlier times the USA and the USSR – will refrain from any direct confrontation in order to avoid nuclear war ; the middle powers allied with Russia will not be significantly damaged by the West. The only military superiority possessed by Washington, London and Paris resides in their capacity to manipulate armed groups and use them as proxies. By bringing France and the United Kingdom into the fray, President Trump has forced them to accept the reality they were refusing to see. This grand show, then, was no more than a futile gesture. After a quarter of a century of unilateral domination by the West, its three main military powers have just been down-graded. The world has returned to a bipolar situation like that of the Cold War, although the new rules still need to be defined. The Third World War will have to wait.

Red notice – a tale of two books

The Second Reading of the Immigration Control (Gross Human Rights Abuses) Bill was moved on 15 December in the House of Lords by Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws. The stated purpose is to create legislation that will prevent gross abusers of human rights from entering Britain. More plausibly the noble Lords are entangled – by design or ignorance -in a seedy campaign to fuel Russophobia.  Continue reading